Steve Earle – On Tour With “So You Wannabe An Outlaw”

Steve Earle has seen more ups and downs than most contemporary musicians. On tour in support of his latest album So You Wannabe An Outlaw he recently came through town and put on a magnificent show at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. Sprinkling his set with tracks new and old (and yes, borrowed and blue), he and The Dukes delivered a very full evening of music.
I first saw Earle decades ago, in his LA debut at the Roxy on Sunset, circa 1986. Over the years he has struggled with substance abuse, a succession of wives and jail time.
​He draws on that experience in his songwriting, his voice continues to resonate deeply with emotion. His time spent with Townes Van Zandt honed his songwriting (and eventually was the inspiration for naming his son Justin Townes Earle). Over the years Steve Earle’s rich catalog has been mined by ​the likes of Johnny Cash, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Shawn Colvin and Emmylou Harris.​ Indeed, Waylon Jennings recorded Earle’s “The Devil’s Right Hand” twice., a song the writer still brings memorably to life on stage.​

Steve Earle surrounded by The Dukes, Solana Beach, August 2017

The Dukes are a perfect foil for his musical vision. He kicked off the evening with a roiling version of “This Land Is Your Land,” which set the stage for his less than understated position on the left side of the political spectrum. While never heavy handed, he imbued any political message with emotional underpinning. His debut breakthrough song “Guitar Town” never strays too far from his set list, and it was given a rousing rendition.  “Goodbye Michaelangelo” is a touching tribute to a fellow traveller, the late Guy Clark.​

Earle’s tour continues through the autumn, and my wish would be a visit to Australia where he is paired with Paul Kelly. I’d give up a Springsteen on Broadway show to see that pair down under.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.